• August 19, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

CRM Ain't Easy

NEW YORK -- When all is said and done, dealing with executives’ preconceived notions is among both the most important and the most difficult things in progressing with CRM 2.0 projects. There’s a lot involved, though, and while the tools are there to help ease the process, they aren’t in wide use. But attendees of Tuesday’s sales track sessions at destinationCRM 2008 got them for free.

Cyrus Aram, senior business strategy manager for Hewlett Packard, didn’t come to the show as a vendor; he came as somebody with more than 15 years of CRM implementation experiences, with successes as well as failures from which to learn. His back-to-back sessions, “Transforming Sales and Service in the Midst of Web 2.0” and “Creating a Web 2.0 ROI in Weeks (Not Months)” assumed four steps in the process. They might not be the ones most people are familiar with:

    * Sacred Cows;
    * Culture and Process Audit;
    * Organizational Design; and
    * Key Behaviors.

Too often, Aram said, businesses try to start with redesigning the organization and processes – and they fail miserably. “I know what you’re thinking: Why can’t we start with step three,” Aram asked. The reason is that when you mess with the status quo, you will run into resistance from people who want things the old way. “People’s emotional states are tied to their job competencies. You can’t make changes without addressing this.”

In one example, a highly ranked company in Fortune magazine’s list of best companies to work for, a 1:1 ratio of account executives to sales administrators, with account execs performing both sales and service duties, was considered necessary and unchangeable. The underlying reasons for this requirement turned out to be not so carved in stone. The top management merely wanted to keep execs from handling administrative duties when they could be selling, but also wanted the letter and spirit of service calls entered into the CRM system. The doctrine of “every service call is a sales call, and every sales call is a service call” became twisted into a demand for one account exec per sales admin. It was further complicated by management’s fear of losing status on the list because change tends to make people unhappy.

Exposing the motives behind demands, and establishing guiding principles to deal with them, can make the impossible possible, and it must happen early in the implementation process. “If you can’t get to this, don’t bother trying to do sales and service transformation,” Aram said.

Even once all the cards are on the table, it’s not time to rebuild the organization; Gap analysis has to come next. “This helps you understand the baseline of what people in the company are doing today,” Aram said. “How can you make changes without knowing what you’re changing?” This includes cultural elements as well as business processes. Process owners will argue for priority, but this approach backs it up with numbers.

And whatever decision is made, implementers must understand that prioritizing one thing means something else will not get as much attention. Clear tradeoffs make transformation possible. “Executives want it all and they want it now,” Aram said. “Remind them of the triple constraint [of schedule, scope, and cost] and make them prioritize.”

Organizational design comes next, and Aram calls it “one of the most difficult things I’ve worked on in 15 years.” Organizational design is job design – “it impacts people, and the effects will overshadow everything else you achieve,” Aram said.

If you can balance change after considering all the other factors, the pain level for the company will be relatively low, but there will always be pain somewhere. Part of that pain is that you might not see an immediate improvement. “The first three to six months will be hell,” Aram said. Certain projects that depend on others to be completed first might seem forgotten even if they’re not, and operational changes have to come before strategic ones. 

Enthusiasm may be the hardest thing to maintain throughout an implementation, but this sober approach will greatly improve the chances of successful CRM changes. “It ain’t easy; it’s as hard as it gets,” Aram said.

Click here for more of our destinationCRM 2008 coverage.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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